27. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan1


  • Brezhnev’s Letter

SUMMARY: Brezhnev’s letter to you2 deviates only slightly from the text of his opening speech to the 26th CPSU Congress. We presume our allies have received similar messages, and we plan to consult with them on replies which say that Soviet restraint is essential to an improvement of East/West relations.


The tone of Brezhnev’s letter accentuates the positive and attempts to underline the “serious” nature of his proposals. The few minor differences between the letter and Brezhnev’s Congress speech (e.g., addition of a reference to a role for the UN Secretary General in creation of an international committee on nuclear war, and reference to U.S. and Allied skepticism concerning Brezhnev’s proposal for a moratorium on TNF deployments) do not signal any modifications in the substance of the Soviet proposals. The letter is another step in the ongoing Soviet diplomatic and propaganda campaign to portray the speech as a positive initiative to improve East/West relations while contrasting it with our alleged “footdragging”. We believe that similar letters will be delivered in NATO capitals and probably in other countries as the Soviets pursue time-honored wedge driving tactics.


We should consult with our NATO allies to determine whether they have received similar letters and, if so, to agree on the substance of replies. Consultations on the substance of Brezhnev’s speech are already well advanced, and we expect Secretary General Luns to give a general reaction to the speech based on agreed Alliance views sometime next week. This should enable us to agree rapidly on coordinated replies to Brezhnev’s letters.

Our replies should emphasize that the Alliance will pursue a consistent and constructive approach to all East/West issues, but that we [Page 65] intend to judge Soviet intentions on the basis of actions and willingness to observe restraint.

In order to counter the expanding Soviet “peace offensive” we are providing all our diplomatic posts with analysis of Brezhnev’s speech and guidance on our own policy.

The West German press has reported delivery of a Brezhnev letter to Schmidt. We have submitted proposed press guidance for use here to the NSC. If pressed by the media, we suggest acknowledging receipt of a letter to you, while maintaining confidentiality of its content unless the Soviets themselves publicize it.


That you approve the course of action outlined above.3

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Matlock Files, Head of State Correspondence (US–USSR) (1 of 2) Jan.–June 1981. Secret.
  2. See Document 26.
  3. Reagan checked and initialed: “Approve.” In a memorandum to Haig, March 17, Allen wrote: “Your memorandum of March 7 recommending that the President approve the course of action outlined has been seen by the President and approved.” (Reagan Library, Matlock Files, Head of State Correspondence (US–USSR) (1 of 2) Jan.–June 1981)